Moving from academia to industry — some months later

The daily grind I have at the tensorforge. Photo by Kenny Luo on Unsplash

How has it been in general?

In short; I really do like it. To elaborate a bit, I haven’t regretted the decision to transition at all so far. There are many things that I do miss in varying amounts, but they do not counter all the positive things — not even close.

What do I actually do day to day?

In my mind our offices look and feel like this, but in a good way. Photo by Ant Rozetsky on Unsplash
  1. Discussing with the project team and planning what we should do and how.
  2. Discussing with managers, salespeople and customers on how the current projects are going.
  3. Discussing with managers, salespeople and customers about what we could provide in the future.

The coding

An almost accurate visualization on my coding habits. Photo by Procreator UX Design Studio on Unsplash

The meetings

Well, actually the meetings are now all in MS Teams for some reason, but this is how I try to feel during. Photo by Jessica Da Rosa on Unsplash

How does the private sector compare to the Academia?

I don’t want to start by completely bashing the academy, but I really need to point out that working in the academia is not always fun. The longer I have now spent in the industry, the more it seems to pop out that many researchers seem to have formed working habits that would be illegal in the private sector. For me the reason behind pushing myself to unhealthy limits was that I didn’t feel like I was working for a university as a grad student or postdoc, I was just doing math while someone was giving me money on a monthly basis so that I can pay my bills and buy food. The blurred lines between ‘what I do for living’ and ‘what I am’ can give rise to very satisfying experiences, but it can also easily mean that you overextend and damage yourself by working too much. The following quote from Chesterton feels like it fit me (and many colleagues as well) quite well:

The particularly good things and some of the downsides in the industry contra academia

I’ve already mentioned the immediate, obvious and materialistic aspects: job security, salary, work-life balance etc. Let’s next look at the ones that are harder to measure in numbers.

Not actually me, but the vibe of the image fits. Photo by CDC on Unsplash
  1. The technical people will have clear weekly or monthly goals, which means that they (we) can concentrate on reasonable sized blocks of work, get feelings of achievement and not be overwhelmed by the totality of things we need to still accomplish. In addition you get much more frequent feedback
  2. Everyone involved can try to see which parts are taking roughly the amount of time we were estimating them to take, or if there are certain parts which are falling behind and might require extra resources or redesign.

Afterword

Even though this second part was delayed, I’m still planning to turn this into a trilogy, meaning that I’ll hopefully post a third and final part where I describe the feelings after 1–2 years of experience in the industry. If you just can’t wait, someone else also wrote about how the private sector feels seven years after the transition from the Academia. It was a nice read.

Acknowledgements:

Thanks to Anne, Olli and an assortment of various Franks on the feedback, their comments improved both this (and the previous) text considerably. Also thanks to all of you who read the previous part, especially to those who reached out.

A mathematician trying to make linear algebra think.

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